OS Explorer map 412, Skye – Sleat: Broadford, Kyleakin & Armadale – I own this map, and have visited it before starting this blog. Visited for this post 29th March 2018.
In my previous post, the Dearest Progenitors and I were driving south from Portree, on holiday in Scotland – having spent four nights at our holiday cottage on Harris, were making our slow way back home, staying on Skye and Mull for two nights each. Our destination that evening was a hotel in Sleat, at the south-eastern, landwards, end of Skye.
We reached our hotel without problems; it had a wonderful view out across the Sound of Sleat to the mountains on Knoydart on the mainland. We spent the remainder of the afternoon mostly lazing around until dinner, but Father Dearest and I did go for a short walk, where we found a little swing on a tree and had some fun with it.
The next day we had free on Skye, so it was time for some exploring! We therefore drove off, to find Dunscaith Castle. What is there now is a ruin dramatically sitting on a rock, cut off from the mainland at high tide. It looked just about accessible if you’re brave (I wasn’t), as although it was clearly visible where the wooden drawbridge was no longer present, there were little stone ledges on which it would once have rested, that one could walk across without too much trouble.
The current ruin is “possibly 13th-century” according to Canmore, and the site was certainly fortified well before then. (That website has a lovely reconstruction drawing of what the castle might once have looked like.) But it also notably has medieval literary/”mythological” associations, which are rather what drew me to it. In tradition, the castle is the home of Scáthach, the warrior-woman who in the medieval Irish “Ulster Cycle” tales taught Cú Chulainn and Ferdia their martial skills. (Dunscaith < Dún Scáthaich.) I studied Old Irish for two years at university, however due to some bad choices I almost exclusively studied the language rather than the literature – not, of course, that the Old Irish language is a bad choice; it’s wonderful and I love it.  I do rather seriously regret this and mean to fix it at some point; I’ve been to plenty of Irish literature lectures and hung about people talking excitedly about Irish literature enough to know exactly what I’m missing! I only finally read the Táin this year as it was one of the set texts in the general seminar series on my masters course, and certainly need to read more.
So yes, there was a castle. It was very pretty, and the views across the water to the Cuillin were wonderful. We also took some silly pictures on the cliffs, and as the tide was out I walked around the castle at sea level. As we were leaving, a group of people arrived, climbed up into the castle, and then took some pictures with a Catalonian flag, so I’m not sure what that was about.
We then walked back to the car and drove off. Our next stop was at Armadale Castle, where we didn’t go to see the castle or gardens, but instead just went to the tea room and had some tea while we decided what to do with the rest of our day.
A plan emerged. Now the two main ways to get between Skye and the mainland are the Skye Bridge linking Kyle of Lochalsh and Kyleakin and the Mallaig-Armadale ferry. However, there is also another ferry, in summer only, linking Kylerhea to Glenelg; it crosses the narrowest channel of water, but the termini are rather isolated on both ends, so it’s easy to see why the modern routes chose other places. In any case, the ferry had just reopened for the year, so we decided to go across for a few hours and see what we could find there – which, of course, I will write about in my next post, about the Glenelg map area!
We returned to Skye in the late afternoon, went back to our hotel for a little while before going out to dinner in a passable Indian restaurant. The next morning, we were leaving Skye, this time on the Armadale-Mallaig ferry, so up we got, and away we went! That tale will continue in my next-but-one post, which should concern the Ardnamurchan map. For now, some ferry pictures:
Now, I had been to this map area before this visit, but all of the cases are pretty marginal according to my Rules, which this map only just fulfilled until this visit.
Broadford is on this map, and that is a place where I’ve stopped nearly every time I’ve been to Skye. It’s on the A87, so you have to drive through it to get to the northern half of Skye, and to the Uig ferry to Harris. There is a big petrol station there, with a Co-op that gets very busy, and those are the reason why I’ve often stopped there. I recall stopping there on the 2014 trip around Scotland with my school friends that was featured in my North Uist, Inverness and Cuillin Hills posts. I’ve also certainly been with my parents. However, stopping to buy things directly on a through driving route does not count for a new map area.
In 2015, I came to Scotland with Father Dearest, on a trip looking at houses, when we were considering buying our Harris cottage. After we went to look at a house in Glasnakille (as told in the Cuillin Hills post – this trip is also mentioned in the South Harris post), the estate agent took us back to his office to look at the details of a few other houses. This office was in Broadford, but it too was on the main A87 which we’d’ve been driving along anyway. That is okay, since it wasn’t a buying stuff stop nor a food or drink stop, so this does count, as stopping to look at an estate agent’s office isn’t needs that I faced purely as a through-traveller, but yes, it’s very marginal; we were only there for five minutes. I recall that Father Dearest was enchanted by the estate agent’s car, it being a Land Rover Defender from the very last batch built before they were discontinued. I’m rather impressed at myself for remembering that, as I really don’t care about cars, to the eternal dismay of two of my young, car-obsessed cousins.
Now, on that trip, we had been looking at houses on Lewis and Harris, and one at the north end of Skye, the day before, and we actually stayed the night in this map. Not very marginal, you might think, but the hotel was in Kyleakin, where the Skye Bridge goes across to the mainland, and it’s actually in the overlap with maps 413 and 428. Since later on that trip I visited map 413, if there weren’t anything else counting for 412, we could only have counted 413.
That hotel was perfectly serviceable. We had dinner in some restaurant in Kyleakin that I don’t really remember but I think was fairly mediocre to acceptable. Father Dearest had forgotten to bring headphones, so was disappointed because he wanted to stay up late watching Netflix, but couldn’t as I was in the same room and would be able to hear the speakers. I recall noticing that the hotel’s breakfast menu had porridge with whisky in on it. There were also tartan carpets. A mildly noteworthy thing happened when we were leaving, in the the hotel’s card machine wasn’t working, leading the very inexperienced-seeming worker to write down my dad’s details on a piece of paper, which he had to be convinced to promise he would shred once the payments started working.
But yes, in the morning we set off over the bridge, and left Skye!
 My undergraduate degree, as my regular readers have probably gathered by now, was in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic. The structure of the course in first year is that one studies for six papers out of a selection of ten – five languages, four history, and palaeography (the study of medieval manuscripts and writing). History isn’t really my thing, so I chose to study all five languages – Old English, Old Irish, Middle Welsh, Old Norse and medieval Latin – and just one history paper. Of those six, you choose four to study fully and be examined on at the end of the year; you then throughout the year write essays for supervisions with an academic in these four areas. For the language papers, the essays are predominantly literary, with a little bit of linguistics only if you choose to. For the other two though, you take only informal tests, which only test your language, and you never are required to write literary essays. This is what I did with Old Irish. In my second year (which was more like most people’s third year, since due to complicated reasons involving this being my second undergraduate degree I was doing a condensed version fo the course) I didn’t take an Old Irish course at all, but I did attend the second-year Irish language classes, because I was taking Celtic Philology, i.e. the historical development of the Celtic languages, and so keeping up my Irish was useful for that – especially since I had dropped Welsh.
Old Irish, yes, well, some do dislike some aspects of it, I acknowledge; it does have some fiendishly complex and unfamiliar grammar. And true, if I had a short time in which to get good enough to read some hard text, then I’d probably be cursing Old Irish’s name; it is difficult. That post I linked to in the main text is about the verbal system, and talks about some of its most interesting/outlandish/ridiculous features. (It’s also on the old blog of my lovely and wonderful Old Irish teacher from last year – I’m not sure whether he knows we found that yet… If you’re reading this, hello Mark!)
But it’s the weirdness of the grammar that I like really. I have a long-standing disagreement with my friend Erithacus resulting from her love of Ancient Greek; when I went on a summer course to learn some (on which see my London North post) I found that while it was a lot of fun, I didn’t really like it quite as much as Latin. Erithacus prefers Greek, on the grounds that for her, one of the most wonderfully pleasing things in language learning is finding elegant expressions for things that can’t adequately be expressed in our native tongues, and this is something that she found to be the case rather a lot in Greek. Something I particularly love about Latin is the little messy corners of grammar where you can see old patterns poking out just behind the surface, little fossils of long-dead sound-changes, and in my brief six-week foray into Greek I didn’t feel like I really got far-enough into it to see thing like that – although there was more grammar, and it’s certainly not the case that there wasn’t any of my stuff, most of the irregularity I saw that was present was fairly unsatisfying, suppletion and the like. But yes, I’m sure this probably changes when you learn more than I did in six weeks, and a lot of my opinion probably came from the teaching style of that course, which wasn’t to my taste.
Anyway, yes, that thing that I like about Latin is just absolutely everywhere in Old Irish, and the sheer amount of irregularity means that every other verb form you come across is an exercise in backwards philology just to work out what it is. It’s very satisfying.